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By Earl Coetzee

Digital Editor

R1bn malpractice cloud hanging over Gauteng health dept

A shocking 20 000 patients were harmed in the province's hospitals, with 4 320 cases in Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital alone.

The Gauteng department of health could be facing a raft of malpractice cases after it emerged that as many as 20 000 patients may have suffered due to negligence in the past two years.

Its liability could run to more than R1 billion.

The shocking figure for the number of victims emerged in the Gauteng Legislature, after the provincial health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa answered a question from DA member of the provincial legislature Jack Bloom.

This has prompted the Democratic Alliance to call for improved measures to minimise medical mistakes, which they say are caused by “poor management and lack of consequences”.

“According to Ramokgopa, the serious adverse events (SAEs) included allegations of negligence, incompetence of staff, human errors, abscondment of patients and system failure,” said Bloom.

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital was the most dangerous in Gauteng, with 4 320 recorded SAEs, while Heidelberg Hospital recorded the lowest at 42.

Bloom said the high number of patients who suffered harm highlights the crisis in public health, which often led to massive court settlements and payouts.

While there may not be a single factor to blame for the high number of SAEs, Bloom believes it boils down to poor management, along with a lack of support staff, equipment shortages and overworked and fatigued doctors.

“Mistakes happen,” he said yesterday.

“These are exacerbated though, when you don’t have enough support staff and lack of other support.”

He points at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital as an example of poor management, saying “the hospital hasn’t had a permanent CEO since January two years ago, yet it has a budget of R3 billion and over 6 000 staff.”

“I keep asking the MEC when they will appoint a CEO, and they keep making promises. It’s been two years and in that time a lot of patients have been damaged.”

Despite the hospital’s massive budget, it is also apparently lacking a registered chartered accountant in its CFO position.

According to Bloom, as a teaching hospital which is relatively well resourced, Baragwanath registers abnormally high numbers of patients being harmed.

“In the first six months of this year, they have already registered 986 [SAEs], which indicates that we are likely to see more than 2 000 by the end of the year,” he said. “Something is drastically wrong there. You can’t tell me their resources are that much worse than Charlotte Maxeke, which fared so much better.”

The latter hospital registered only 1 262 SAEs, making it the best-performing teaching hospital in the province.

The Gauteng health department could not be reached for comment yesterday, while the South African Medical Association declined to comment before it had studied all the facts.


Other academic hospitals had these serious adverse events:

  • Steve Biko Hospital, 1 789
  • George Mukhari Hospital, 1 574
  • Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital, 1 262.

The rest of the province’s hospitals fared little better:

  • Sebokeng Hospital, 1 487
  • Thelle Mogoerane Hospital, 1 387
  • Helen Joseph Hospital, 1 044
  • Tembisa Hospital, 865
  • Rahima Moosa Hospital, 860
  • Mamelodi Hospital, 824
  • Leratong Hospital, 651
  • Far East Rand Hospital, 644
  • Tambo Memorial Hospital, 615
  • Kalafong Hospital, 413
  • Pholosong Hospital, 384
  • Bertha Gxowa Hospital, 323
  • South Rand, 92
  • Carletonville, 90
  • Odi, 77
  • Tshwane District, 50
  • Pretoria West, 66
  • Heidelberg Hospital, 42.


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